Wednesday, June 20, 2018

"A Daring Venture" by Elizabeth Camden - fascinating historical controversy

A Daring Venture (Empire State, #2)Rosalind Warner has made it her life's work to eradicate water-borne diseases, while Nickolas Drake, new Commissioner of Water for New York, has fought his whole life to bring water to even the poorest tenements of Manhattan. However, the two land on opposite sides of a lawsuit involving water filtration. Rosalind's new technology could mean safe water for New York, but in spite of his attraction to the scientist, Nick is unconvinced by her arguments. But not even Nick can stand aside when someone systematically sets out to destroy Rosalind.

One thing I can always count on in opening up a book by Elizabeth Camden, it will be so much more than I expect; there will be twists and turns such that the plot will end up in a totally different place than the book blurb implies, and I love it. (Not to call the blurb inaccurate--it isn't. The story is just so much more than the blurb.) While this is far from the most faith-filled of her novels, it is a fascinating story, full of controversy that's not unlike what we go through today with modern strides in science.

The title is apt--it truly was a daring venture to chlorinate the water system in the middle of a lawsuit and without permission (a historically accurate portion of the story, even if Rosalind and Nick are fictional). On the one hand, it's easy to approve of the chlorination project knowing what we do now and having a century of successful chlorination history. Rosalind was right that something had to be done to eliminate deadly water-borne disease that was so prevalent up until chlorination. But on the other hand, like Nick, I wouldn't have wanted my family to be the lab rats in testing the long-term consequences of chlorination, not when it was new. And I really wouldn't have been happy to find out it had been done without my knowledge and without giving me a choice in the matter; it's a major betrayal of trust. In this case it all worked out, but I'm not convinced they did right in going about it in secret.

I have never seen an author to compare with Elizabeth Camden for putting two people on opposite sides of an issue and having them both be right; it makes for a fascinating and thought-provoking read.

For the record, it's not all science and politics; besides a roller coaster of a romance, there's also a strong tie with the previous book in the Drake family issues that make for some additional suspense. I appreciated Nick's attempts to reconcile the families, and his ability to show compassion to someone who didn't deserve it. And I like the glimpse of where the next book in the series is going, and how Nick's job (and subsequent actions) in this story will have such an impact on the next.

Thank you Bethany House and NetGalley for the complimentary e-book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Empire State
1. A Dangerous Legacy
2. A Daring Venture
3. A Desperate Hope (February 2019)

Friday, June 15, 2018

"More than Meets the Eye" by Karen Witemeyer

More Than Meets the Eye (Patchwork Family #1)Seeking justice from the gambler who destroyed his family, Logan Fowler is doing everything he can to learn the man's weaknesses before confronting him, until he encounters the man's sister, Evangeline Hamilton, who is sunshine personified. Evie might have mismatched eyes that kept her from being adopted, but she doesn't let it stop her from loving her equally unwanted brothers or their closed-off new neighbor with a soft heart that he can't hide. Will Logan be able to hold his resolve with Evie--and God--working on his heart?

Though even she has her moments of pain and discouragement, Evangeline a marvelous heroine, sweet and full of hope--the perfect tonic for a man who is being eaten alive by the desire for revenge. There are a lot of good, thought-provoking quotes in this book, and she says most of them. One of my favorites was, "Trusting the wrong person might lead to temporary heartache, but trusting the right one provides a strength that can fuel you for a lifetime." How often do we hold back from trusting or being vulnerable because we're afraid they'll hurt us? It's the difference between living in fear and living in love, and we are not called to live in fear.

I enjoyed the turns the plot took--not where I was expecting! The bit of mystery was fun, as was the pet pig (the cause of some of the funniest moments in the story). In some ways it reminded me of the Archer brothers books, with the Hamilton family being isolated the way they are (though less by desire for isolation). I loved how the author was able to pull in different physical flaws (or in Zach's case, his disagreeableness) and turn them into something worth loving. I'm really looking forward to Zach's story--I think he has a ways to go yet in accepting grace for himself, and I want to see him get there!

Another wonderful story by one of my favorite authors!

Monday, June 11, 2018

"A Rebel Heart" by Beth White

A Rebel Heart (Daughtry House #1)Five years after the end of the Civil War, Selah Daughtry is running out of options for saving her family plantation. Pinkerton Agent Levi Riggins is investigating a series of robberies and sabotage that seem to be leading back to the Daughtry plantation. Posing as hotel management for the railroad, he convinces Selah to turn her home into a fancy hotel for the railroad. Selah will do almost anything to save her home, but can she trust the slick-talking Yankee?

I really enjoyed the complexity of the characters in this story. Selah is a very strong and intelligent woman, but still very feminine. Maybe the best way to describe her is that rather than denying some aspect of her personality or looks, she's always pushing to become more of herself. The secondary characters are very well drawn too--whether it's the former slaves that Selah is hoping to employ in her hotel, or the boy she brings home from the train wreck, they all have distinct personalities, and none are perfect, not even the wise old mammy who half-raised Selah. Along with their good qualities, they have prejudices and fears, making them feel very real. I hope we get to see more of them in the future books! And I really like how the author portrays Selah's father; he's very broken, but he's not a monster; he's still her father.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that liars in fiction will be found out, generally at the worst possible moment--even (or especially) if the liar is a good man who has to withhold certain facts due to his job a Pinkerton agent. Selah's inevitable misunderstanding during that revelation aside, I thought the story has a unique plot as Levi helps the Daughtry girls set up business for themselves, while at the same time untangling the case he's investigating. The story shows the good that comes of a community working together, and how it can revitalize a place.

I thought it was really interesting with the varying racial tensions the author brings to the story--not just between black and white, but even within the black community. She brings up points that I never would have thought of but that make sense for the Reconstruction time period.

Thank you Revell for the free book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Daughtry House
1. A Rebel Heart

Friday, June 8, 2018

Becky Wade's "Falling for You"

Falling for You (A Bradford Sisters Romance, #2)Willow Bradford is content to take a break from modeling to watch after her parents' inn, until she runs face to face with NFL quarterback Corbin Stewart--the man who broke her heart. When they end up working together on an ancient missing-persons case, they have to decide if they can risk their hearts working together again.

Becky Wade is talented at writing stories that make me both smile and cry.

In no other realm but the eyes of a child would a model and a football player make an ideal investigative team, but for all their inexperience and lack of authority, Willow and Corbin do a great job (justifying Charlotte's faith in them). The mystery was a fun touch to the story, and I liked that they were able to call on Nora's expertise in research. I really liked Corbin's niece Charlotte; she reminded me of a friend of mine at that age: bright, mature, not afraid to reach for dreams that should be beyond her grasp, and a lover of questionable boy bands. She's an authentic middle schooler (rather than the bratty kind of stereotypical middle schooler).

I really liked how the author dealt with Willow's past. I get Willow's position when it comes to her and Corbin's pre-book break-up, yet I really respect her for eventually owning up to her part in it. It would be so easy to blame it all on Corbin and push her part under the rug, but the truth is she did make mistakes. Turning her back on her beliefs--even so briefly--spiraled quickly into a disaster of her own making, and their relationship suffered because of it. I love how authentic each of the characters are--not just Willow and Corbin, but Charlotte, Corbin's dad, Willow's grandma, even the gardener. They all feel like real people.

Thank you Bethany House for the free book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Bradford Sisters Romances
0.5: "Then Came You" (prequel novella)
1. True to You
2. Falling for You

Monday, June 4, 2018

NEW Christian Fiction for June 2018!

Lots of great historical authors for June! I think it's interesting how each of the covers managed to capture a different side of the model (if they had been all the same person, we'd have a very complete view of her).

The Captured Bride (Daughters of the Mayflower #3) A Defense of Honor (Haven Manor, #1) A Rebel Heart (Daughtry House #1)
The Captured Bride by Michelle Griep (Barbour); Daughters of the Mayflower, book 3

Tasked with guiding a traitor and shipment of gold to the British through hostile territory, the daughter of a captive and a Mohawk chief is in nearly over her head between French soldiers, rival tribes, and a traitor who is much more than he seems.

A Defense of Honor by Kristi Ann Hunter (Bethany House); Haven Manor, book 1

When Kit turned her back on Regency society years ago to help women in need, she never expected to step foot in a ballroom again, but a run for her life sends her straight into the arms of a lord who believes she holds the key to fining his friend's missing sister.

A Rebel Heart by Beth White (Revell); Daughtry House, book 1

Five years after the end of the Civil War, a young woman's Mississippi plantation is swamped by debt, but hope comes from a Yankee railroad man who wants her to turn her home into a hotel.

More Than Meets the Eye A Daring Venture (Empire State, #2)
More Than Meets the Eye by Karen Witemeyer (Bethany House)

When a man comes seeking justice from the gambler who destroyed his family, he discovers the gambler has a family of his own, with a sister intriguing enough to derail his quest.

A Daring Venture by Elizabeth Camden (Bethany House); Empire State, book 2

A female biochemist and the New York's Commissioner of Water are thrown into direct confrontation over her ground-breaking technology, but threats against her push the two together in spite of standing on opposite sides of the water issue.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

"The Captive Bride" by Michelle Griep - a French and Indian War adventure

The Captured Bride (Daughters of the Mayflower #3)
Daughter of a Mohawk leader and a captive, Mercy Lytton straddles multiple worlds as she takes on the role of a scout. She is hired with a group of men to transport a shipment of stolen gold to the British, posing as a settler's wife. The only man available to send with as her husband is a condemned traitor--offered a stay of execution if he can succeed in this mission. Elias Dubois is grateful for the reprieve, but he has a mission of his own that isn't completely in line with with the rest of his companions. Of course, this is all dependent on them not being killed on the way by the French, enemy tribes, or thieves. And as they get a glimpse into each other's characters, Mercy and Elias find themselves in a different kind of danger--a danger to their hearts.

I really enjoy stories set in the French and Indian War, and this one is no exception. There's lots of action and adventure and a marvelous sense of the untamed wilderness. Twists and turns abound, with a number of fun surprises. Honor and dishonor are not relegated to specific sides in the war.

I really liked Elias--he's my kind of hero. He's woods-savvy and deadly, yet he is always a gentleman, even in the wilderness. He treats Mercy with both honor and respect, and always like a lady, even though she is more at home scouting the trail than in a town. He's stealthy, sweet, smart, and faith-filled. I loved it every time the author revealed another of his surprising skills, backstory, and personality. It took me longer to warm up to Mercy, a very strong woman, but stubbornly anti-feminine to begin with. But she softens as the story continues, and it eventually reveals the reason for her attitude, which also helped me like her more.

This is my favorite book I've read by the author so far, and it just bumped up into first place for the Daughters of the Mayflower series (which are by a number of different authors). It is most enjoyable.

Thank you Barbour and NetGalley for the complimentary e-book. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own.

Daughters of the Mayflower
1. The Mayflower Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse
2. The Pirate Bride by Kathleen Y'Barbo
3. The Captured Bride by Michelle Griep
4. The Patriot Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse
5. The Cumberland Bride by Shannon McNear
6. The Liberty Bride by MaryLu Tyndall

Friday, May 25, 2018

The Darkwater Saga by Patrick W Carr

By Divine Right (The Darkwater Saga, #0.5)I had considered the reviewing each book of the trilogy separately, but the reality is they could be one near-1500 page volume, so close do the books follow on each other and so intricately are they entwined. There's hardly any repeat of information from the previous books (which I, reading them all in the course of a week, appreciated, but I feel for anyone who had to wait a year to complete the series).

Willet Dura, an investigator in the king's service, suffers from the aftereffects of war, one of the more peculiar traits being a subconscious knowledge of when a murder has occurred in the city. His investigations lead him from mysterious murders to secrets sects and an evil from the Darkwater that could spell the end of humanity.

The Shock of Night (The Darkwater Saga, #1)This is one intricately-plotted story. Nothing is wasted; everything is important enough to come back again, no matter how inconsequential it seems at the beginning. The world-building is incredibly intricate, with complex politics not only amongst monarchs and their courts, but also within the church (and their relations to said monarchs), and even those politics vary by region, as they would in real life. From one kingdom to the next, cultures change, traditions differ, accents appear. There was a ton of thought put into building this world.

The Shattered Vigil (The Darkwater Saga, #2)The characters, no matter how young or old, wise or foolish, all have their flaws, and all are given ample opportunity to grow. It's discouraging at times how long it takes the members of the Vigil to trust Willet, but in spite of his frustration and anger, he doesn't give in to pettiness, but learns profound grace, as they themselves also learn. I liked how the author created Willet; there is no doubt he's a good guy, but he is much darker than the typical hero, and he stands out all the more for it.

As allegory goes, it isn't nearly as heavy-handed as CS Lewis. There are many parallels with the bible--Lucifer's fall, the triune God, gifts of the Spirit; there are also many parallels with today's church, in both its truth and brokenness, that can convict from this fantasy world as easily as straight up admonitions from ours. There are powerful examples of grace and redemption, especially in the final volume. The author does an incredible job of pointing to truth while remaining true to the spirit of his story.
The Wounded Shadow (The Darkwater Saga, #3)
While I enjoyed the earlier volumes of the story, the final is truly the masterpiece. I can't see any way it could have more fittingly concluded the story. It's bittersweet, as the best heroic tales are (such as Lord of the Rings), and the world can never be as it once was, but maybe--in time, when healing has run its course and some of the horror has washed away--it can be better, and they'll be better prepared when evil raises its head again.

A 5-star series.

The Darkwater Saga
0.5: "By Divine Rite" (prequel novella, highly recommended for a deeper understanding of the world and Willet Dura)
1. The Shock of Night
2. The Shattered Vigil
3. The Wounded Shadow